When our lives make periodic, fundamental shifts, it often pulls us to a place where we are asked to take stock of our gifts, our relationships, and the people and lands that give us meaning and purpose. It’s a place and time of evaluation and gratitude. And as I find myself in this place again after many years, I think it’s time now to share the love I have for you, the place I call home, that as yet I have been too afraid to express, intimidated by what that love might mean for me and what it may mean for you.
As I begin stepping further into my purpose and kuleana in this life, I’ve had the opportunity to reflect critically on all the work I’ve done, the experiences I’ve had, the relationships I’ve built, and the transformations I’ve undergone within my own heart and mind. You are at the center of all these. You have profoundly shaped my values, my politics, my growth. I am eternally struck by how fortunate I am to have you in my life to be the example of what a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic aboriginal country and identity historically was and can be, and as a mixed-race woman, what that belonging looks and feels like. You brought me to a healthier, stronger sense of who I am and where I come from and set me right on this path to reclaiming and reconnecting to my family and genealogy more than I think I could have anywhere else in the world. Your beautiful soul fed this take-no-shit warrior heart of mine as only you could. Your glorious storied geographies provided a lens, a context, a relevant framework for me to understand my innate cravings for freedom, sovereignty, and justice – my mourning and my longing for my homeland(s). You nurtured and channeled the “ride-or-die for the land” gene embedded in my DNA. You have given me a level and complexity of perspective that I have yet to discover how to fully articulate and apply to support the family, peoples, histories, sacred places, and communities I have beyond you. How can I begin to tell you how overwhleming such gifts are to give someone? You have opened me up to my very life.
I have been given a family in you – new relatives, new teachers, new healers, a new name, a new country. I’ve been trying to see how all these seemingly dissonant identities I now hold and “belongings” I have accumulated over these years can coalesce into one complete person and kuleana. I am trying to forge this person I find myself becoming – a person I know because of you. You show me how to own the confidence, grounding, and belonging in/to my identities, to practice and assert my “Hawaiian” and “Black Indian” and “European” identities genuinely, with integrity and conviction, and with full accountability to them and the ancestors and communities they represent. This is no small work.
It eats at my soul to think of the incalculable damage and unimaginable suffering endured by my ancestors and relatives from Africa and Turtle Island; the lands we lost to ecological rape, pillage, theft, and occupation; and the continuation of that violence to this day. It eats at my soul even further to think that would be repeated here for you, 122 years after that unredressed hewa was set in motion, to your people to whom I belong, whom I love and want from the bottom of my heart to support and protect. You have given me everything – given me back my ancestors, my family, my identity. I refuse to accept a similar fate for you, or to accept helplessness in the face of this larger colonial legacy. Our peoples and our lands are meant for something so much greater.
I became somebody through loving you, in the melodic words of Anthony Hamilton. I love you, Hawaiʻi Nei. Now and forever. Onipaʻa kakou.
Mahalo palena ʻole…aloha nui loa…